After "Chinese Democracy," the alleged next album by the remains of Guns n' Roses, the most overdue but nonetheless eagerly anticipated release in the world of hard rock has been the solo album that Zack de la Rocha allegedly left Rage Against the Machine to make back in October 2000; the state of the group at that time had "undermined our artistic and political ideal," he said. The fiery singer and activist was rumored to be working with DJ Shadow, or Trent Reznor, or ?uestlove, and fans waited to hear the sounds that would better forward his vision and goals... and they waited, and then they waited some more.
Now, in the midst of the lucrative and still ironically corporate-friendly Rage reunion, comes the first release from One Day as Lion, a collaboration by de la Rocha and former Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore, named for a slogan in a famous 1970 photo by George Rodriguez ("It's better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a lamb.") Supposedly an appetizer for a full album in the fall, these five tracks are a departure from Rage in that de la Rocha has augmented his rap repertoire with the occasional burst of more melodic singing (he sounds a bit like mid-period Perry Farrell), and de la Rocha employs an arsenal of analog synthesizer in an attempt to replace Rage guitarist Tom Morrello's searing walls of sound. The rhythms are similar to Rage's mix of hard-rock drive and hip-hop groove, though, and if anything, Theodore is a better and more creative drummer than Brad Wilk.
Lyrically, though, it' the same old raging against the same old machine "I'm the orange jumpsuit that's tailor made/I'm the flick of the shank that opened your veins/I'm the dusk, I'm the frightening calm/I'm a hole in the pipeline/I'm a roadside bomb," de la Rocha raps in "If You Fear Dying," a typical burst of anarchist rhetoric. As this sort of industrial rap-rock goes, El-P and Saul Williams are both delivering stronger stuff musically and lyrically, and this Lion's roar seems weak in comparison--though at least de la Rocha has done better than Audioslave.